singing lesson  The old adage states that practice makes perfect.  Musicians, of all people, should know that it takes repetition to train behavior into skill.  We have heard terms like “muscle memory” and “second nature” to describe conditions toward which we are aspiring in order to make musical performance possible.  We know something of what it takes to get there, namely “practice, practice, practice.”  There is no substitute for repetition.  Good pedagogy teaches us that the developmental process is accomplished step by step.  In music training we are stacking routine upon routine, concept upon concept through deliberate repetition.  Not every repetition is exciting or fun or even necessarily gratifying for either student or teacher.  The repetitions are, nevertheless, necessary to achieve the muscle memory and second nature condition toward which we are wanting to move.  Somehow brain – muscle – and innate aptitude connect and music sounds can be made by the trainee.

Any music teacher worth their salt would tell you that the end objective of music rehearsal is certainly much more than a mechanical regurgitation of mental, skeletal, muscular actions that make sounds that match a printed roadmap on a page that we call printed music.  Neither is the end goal a rote re-sounding/mimicking of material presented through recorded or live audio.  To the contrary, when these kinds of objectives seem to be the end goal, it is likely that either the student will quit, the teacher will be dismissed as ineffective, or the resultant music made will simply be heard as stale and lacking musicality.  Even when other mechanical techniques are employed to try and add on the missing component of musicality, the result usually still displays that there is a crucial ingredient missing.  Even those musical elements like phrasing and dynamics can feel mechanical.

So, what is missing?  In the best results of our music training, imaginative discovery and human expression are mysteriously ignited to engage.  Along the way of the training/rehearsing process, sparks of imaginative soul connections seem to fire somewhere in the chemistry of our humanity.  Neuroscientists and media ecologists, following natural science methodology, are likely to attribute it all to the human brain.  Musicologists generally focus more on the meaning of the music itself.  The romantic will more likely be satisfied to leave explanation of musical expression as resultant of stirring the human spirit.  The theologian must surely speak into the discussion biblical examples, instructions, and admonitions toward music-making as expression of praise and as means of ministry, as well as artistic gift.

As practitioners of theology, liturgy, and music, worship music ministers must help senior pastors, other church leaders, and congregations to understand the value and function of music in worship and ministry in the church.  Hearts are trained through a developmental process much like what we know of music training.  We must realize and help people face the truth that not every song every week gives us goosebumps, and Lord help us when that becomes our primary objective anyway.   Rather, we are training our hearts and minds in Godward direction.  Music serves in disciple-making, praise-offering, confession-bearing, assurance-declaring, Gospel- proclaiming, Word-revealing, prayer-wording, and missional-sending.  As pastoral leaders, careful attention needs to be given to what our repetitions are likely to foster among the worshipers we seek to lead.  Words that take root in worshipers’ minds and affections stirred through artistic expression need firm grounding in biblical adherence.

Along my own journey I have heard pastors and music leaders say, “We don’t want to just go through the motions.”  Like you, I know well what is being said here.  On the other hand, it seems important to recognize the word “just” as the problem.  It is not “just going through the motions.”  The practice of Christian worship very much IS, however, about going through the motions….over and over again.  We are practicing, moving toward “muscle memory” and helping worship as response and action to be “second nature.”  With the rhythm of worship being revelation and response, we need to practice listening prayerfully for revelation and practice offering worshipful response.  Somewhere along the line as we are practicing (going through) those motions, the Spirit illuminates our soul(s).  No cheap thrill, or momentary excitement can compare.  Like worship renewal, which such realization can engender, it is not something we achieve, but something for which we pray.  Meanwhile, it’s practice, practice, practice.

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church keyboard players, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship


  1. This is a great way of looking at what we do on Sunday mornings. Thanks Paul! Yes – we want our routine to be “alive.” But even if we can only manage to go through the motions, we are practicing. We are moving closer to the goal of Christ-likeness when our worship will become second nature and infuse every part of our life. Really enjoyed this post!

  2. Eric Benoy Says:

    Spot on as usual, Paul. Those music students who do not get to that point of discovery and drop out, regret later in life not continuing on — and the same with the worshiper — some want it all now and never get to the discovery point, they “drop out” either physically or mentally and wonder why worship is not as meaningful. Keep it up Paul! Blessings!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: